I have been having an affair…Please don’t tell my partner, but the truth is: there are few things I adore more than being wedged between strangers in a packed theatre auditorium, lights dimming and Actors emerging. It was a few years back at a National Theatre platform that my affair became too strong to ignore. The former National Artistic Director, Sir Peter Hall, was in conversation and boldly defended the greatest British institution that is; the theatre. My Thespian heart wept with approval and my entire self was all in.
Keeping my affair under wraps is a struggle, but a recent tête-à-tête with my fellow New York theatre enthusiast allowed me to openly document my growing adoration for the National Theatre in comparison to its West End counterparts.
I believe Britain to be the Godfather of theatre. Take a trip to Stratford-Upon-Avon to Shakespeare’s home to understand the birthplace of our country’s rich theatrical history, but head to the National Theatre in London to bathe in a modern glow of crème de la crème Actors and exhilarating new works. Platforms of high fluting Actors and Directors are on tap at the National to informally chit-chat with audiences about their current projects and careers. Attending a platform reignites my affair. An evening of passion and excitement at the National is a key ingredient to keeping a theatre affair alight.
As an avid theatre attendee it is a pressing concern of mine – without crunching too many numbers or exhausting the topic – that the prize of theatre tickets in London’s dazzling West End are increasing to astronomical heights. To see the likes of The Book of Mormon you have to fork out a whopping £127 for the most basic of seats, and the Royal Opera House is at the top of the list, homing tickets from £227 upwards. On the contrary, I only have to take a 360 sweep around the Nationals heaving auditorium to predict that their full house is due to affordability and noble we are for the people approach. The National reaps the benefits they sew. Strong supporters are easily mustered because the National allows their diverse audiences and members to grow as part of the theatres journey.
Queuing at the National box office for day of performance tickets has never failed me. I’m not saying everyone has been as lucky as I with their ticket distribution, but having waited in line at the Noël Coward Theatre to be brashly cut off without any hope of seeing Jude Law in the flesh, I have taken too many knocks to return. Waiting in line on performance day for a cheaper ticket is like playing the lottery. Playing the lottery can bring jubilation or disappointment. After multiple times of not wining the lottery at mainstream West End theatres, my back is against the wall. Accessibility is carved in the history of the National Theatre. This accessibility creates the feeling of a shared household, and if the accessibility disappears down the rabbit hole of overpriced tickets, then where are we in bringing forth the art form to the masses?
My biggest bug bare is theatre elitism. Those that cradle endless amounts of money believing themselves to be more entitled to win premium seats than the majority. In my time frolicking in the theatre world such an attitude has often reared its ugly head. If the latter are the only ones affording tickets, how will theatre productions receive widespread appraisal they are due? To me this defeats the core purpose of art exposure regardless of stance. Why should I be left wanting and saving for half price tickets in the nose bleed seats because I don’t have the luxury of owning an American Express card? My theatre affair weighs in at a heavy ten on the dedication scale while widely speaking, the “entitled” crowd aren’t overly concerned about the growth of theatre as a worldwide movement.
All of these factors tied with my confidants American observation of the greatest British institution, has made me realize the theatre world should be yours for the taking. Let it be a right not an honour to engross yourself in a broad spectrum of theatre works. My affair came to me like a stranger in the night but a welcomed stranger none the less. Perhaps those of you too timid to place your heart in the hands of theatre should consider the wonders it will bring you if you open your mind to a creative vision.